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Tag: Padma Venkatraman

Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2021) Nominees Round Up, August 5 Edition

Click here to see all of the current Amazing Audiobooks nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.

A Time to Dance cover art

A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman; narrated by Padma Venkatraman
Listening Library
Release date: 09-03-19
ISBN: 978-0593153482

Veda is at the top of her game as a classical dancer in India.  Then, on a bus to a championship dance show a terrible accident leaves her with a partial leg amputation, crushing her dance prodigy dreams.  Unable to give in to losing her life’s love, Veda finds a dance teacher willing to take her on, but she must start at the beginning, learning to dance all over again with her new prosthetic leg.  At her new dance school she meets Govinda, a boy who also has a love for dance, one that is deeply spiritual.  As she is relearning the movements of her body, with the help of Govinda, she connects much more fully to the meaning behind the dances and herself.

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Loss of Limbs in YA Books

I’m seeing more books about characters who have suffered the loss of a limb in the past few years. Despite this, all the characters have learned to cope really well. It makes me really grateful for what I have and makes me have more empathy for those who aren’t as fortunate. I’m seeing more realistic portrayals of characters with disabilities who are strong main characters and not secondary ones, maybe due to the diverse books trend.

It seems that there are a range of different types of books with characters lacking limbs. There are fantasies set in the past, science fiction books set in the future and realistic fiction often related to sports or the arts. And, fairy tale retellings, including two published recently based on Grimm’s Girl Without Hands, one of their less well-known tales.

crimson bound hodgeCrimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge is a lush fantasy that incorporates a number of fairy tales into her story of Rachelle who is forced to fight deadly creatures on behalf of the realm to atone for a reckless act. When the king forces her to guard his bastard son Armand, Rachelle forces Armand to help her hunt for the legendary sword that might save their world. Armand isn’t a warrior like Rachelle because the forestborn that marked him cut off his hands (an homage to Grimm’s Girl Without Arms) but Armand is shrewd and uses his great intelligence to make up for it.

 

Image-3Stephanie Oakes’ The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly (2016 Morris Award Finalist and 2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults Nominee) is unique in that it’s not a fantasy, nor is it SF, it is realistic fiction. The year isn’t specific, but it seems to me to take place in a relatively current time period but since the community is off the grid in a secluded area, it has a more historical feel. This story of one teen’s struggle to break away from the life she’s known in a cult since she was five is gritty and often hard to read but unforgettable. Minnow no longer believes in the Prophet after he announces that God told him to marry her. She dares to attempt to escape but is caught and punished for her disobedience – her hands are cut off. The Prophet even keeps Minnow’s skeletal remains of her hands on his mantel. Minnow tells her story of what happened to her in the cult before and after that horrific event to an FBI psychologist as she’s in juvenile detention on charges of seriously assaulting a mentally unstable young man.

 

Image-6Anyone familiar with Grimm’s story will notice that there are a number of elements that Oakes faithfully includes from Grimm’s original tale, although Oakes adds an even more shocking twist to her story. (For another version of Grimm’s Girl Without Hands, read Philip Pullman’s Fairy Tales From the Brothers Grimm (2012) and his commentary about why he dislikes this tale).

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Bookist: Asian Women’s History Through YA Fiction

March is Women’s History Month, celebrated worldwide. In the past two years, I’ve taken a look at history in Britain and history in the US. At the time, I didn’t view this as a series of posts, but I admit that I love learning about history, especially through the eyes of women. So this year, I’m taking a look at history through the eyes of Asian women.

Mulan from Once Upon a Time

Ancient World to 1099: Major Events Include
Paper was invented, Buddhism emerged, advances in math (zero and decimals), oldest book was produced, paper money was invented by the Chinese Government, Chinese use gunpowder in warfare, Nam-Viet ruled for more than 1000 years by the Han Dynasty in China, Silk Road, Alexander the Great reaches India, India and the Roman empire trade, Hinduism emerges, Constantine founds New Rome, Ottoman Empire begins, and Great Wall of China was constructed.

Books Include:
Spirit’s Princess by Esther Friesner: A shamaness predicts great things for Himiko, the daughter of a chieftain, who will one day rule Japan using her strength and her love for her people.

Wild Orchid by Cameron Dokey:  A retelling of the tale of Mulan – the girl who took her father’s place in the army in disguise.

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Diverse YA Titles to Look for at ALA Annual

Photo Jun 22, 6 52 28 PMAs a follow-up to Hannah Gómez’s post #DiversityatALA about the current movement to be vocal about the need for more diversity in YA literature (#weneeddiversebooks), and Kelly Dickinson’s post featuring LGBTQ titles, I’m here to list some upcoming YA books that contain non-white, non-heterosexual, non-cisgendered or differently-abled characters that you should be on the lookout for. If you are attending the ALA Annual Conference this weekend in Vegas, ask the publishers about ARCs for many of these. Not all of them will be available as ARCs because some aren’t being published until 2015, but publishers’ reps should still be able give you the scoop on them.

To start, I’m including a few recent notable books that you probably know about and a few that aren’t as obvious because the reviews might not have mentioned their diverse content, or you can’t tell from their jacket flaps.

Photo Jun 23, 2 15 16 AMFreakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark (2014 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults) is a novel about a transgendered boy while a strong pick for a nonfiction book about transgendered teens is Susan Kuklin’s Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out.

I wasn’t aware that  the main character Chevron “Chevie” is descended from the Shawnee Native American tribe in Eoin Colfer’s Warp: Book 1 the Reluctant Assassin until I started reading it. The second book in the series, Hangman’s Revolution is coming out today. Park in Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (2014 Printz Honor book) is half-Korean.

In Stick by Andrew Smith the main character “Stick” is differently-abled because he was born without an ear & his older brother is gay. Chasing Shadows by Swati Avashi has a main character of Indian descent and there’s a lot about Hindu mythology in the book.

Photo Jun 19, 11 31 11 AMPadma Venkatraman’s A Time to Dance is about a classical Indian dance prodigy whose life seems to be over after she becomes a below-the knee amputee.

Erin Bow’s Sorrow’s Knot is a fantasy flavored by Native American cultures and Dark Metropolis by Jaclyn Dolamore features a lesbian character.

Now that you’re up to speed on recently-published diverse titles, here are some upcoming books with diverse content to keep an eye out for at ALA Annual and other conferences:

  • Girl From the Well by Rin Chupeco (Sourcebooks, August  2014) is Photo Jun 22, 11 44 43 AMa ghost story about Okiko, whose spirit has wandered the world for centuries delivering punishment to monsters who hurt children,  but when she meets teenaged Tark, she tries to free him from the demon that invaded him.
  •  Blind by Rachel DeWoskin (Penguin, August 2014) A 15-year-old teen girl loses her eyesight the summer before high school after a firecracker misfires into a crowd.
  •  Positive: a Memoir by Paige Rawl (HarperCollins, August 2014) (NF). Memoir of Paige Rawl, HIV positive since birth, who was bullied in school once she disclosed her HIV-positive status and from that moment forward, every day was like walking through a minefield. 
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Beyond The History Books: Genre Guide to ‘Off The Beaten Path’ Historical Fiction

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Definition

Historical fiction can be a deceptively complex genre to define.  It would seem initially that any fiction set in the past might be considered historical fiction but as we examine this basic distinction, it becomes significantly less simple.  After all, how far into the past does a novel need to be set to be considered historical rather than contemporary realistic fiction?  Do we use a specific range of years? Do we consider the likely cultural memory and lived experiences of the intended audience?  For the purposes of this guide, I’ve decided to define historical fiction as a novel set in the past in which the particular realities of that time and place play a significant role in the narrative.

Characteristics

The genre of historical fiction is vast and varied.  The idea of compiling a definitive genre guide is fairly daunting  so I chose a focus: “off the beaten path” historical fiction–novels set in the past that feature perspectives, places, time periods, or events frequently unexplored in both the average history class curriculum and historical fiction.

Appeal

These novels expand the genre beyond the ‘white people in interesting clothing’  approach that can dominate the historical fiction shelves. In the process of creating history, many voices have been silenced, forgotten, or shoved aside. Good historical fiction–like all good fiction–weaves an absorbing story with complex characters, providing us with an opportunity to counteract simplified or biased versions of history.  Through fiction, readers can look at well-known events from a new perspective, immerse themselves in unfamiliar cultures, or see an exploration of their heritage.

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Celebrating Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month: The Indian-American Experience in YA Lit

Nataraja
Shiva as Lord of Dance (Nataraja), Chicago Institute of Art. Photograph taken by L. Nataraj

A few weeks ago, I was lamenting the closing down of one of my favorite restaurants in San Diego. I’m almost embarrassed to admit how choked up it made me feel, but hear me out: This particularly eatery was so important to me because 1) It was the only place nearby that served the authentic South Indian cuisine I grew up eating and, 2) It’s where my husband and I grabbed lunch after our courthouse wedding nine years ago.

For years, my husband and I made the 30-minute drive to Madras Cafe – it would usually be packed with Indian families (many of whom were South Indian like mine). While perusing the menu, I would take comfort in being surrounded by the familiar strains of Tamil or Telugu – the languages spoken by my father and mother, respectively. The walls were also plastered with faded photographs of temples in the southern part of India, and food was served on traditional stainless steel dinnerware.

Because my parents live in Northern California, this place was the closest I could come to my mother’s home cooked meals. More than all of this, this restaurant represented a space where I belonged, and where I was not an outsider. This sense of belonging also applies to my feelings about diversity in literature – I continue to search for books in which I find my personal cultural experiences accurately mirrored. Discovering a story where the characters eat the same food as I do, pepper their English-dialogue with Indian language, and express the frustration of straddling two cultures elicits an internal sigh, like, “Finally! Someone else gets it!”

The month of May marks Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, and I’m excited to share a few YA literature titles that focus on the Indian-American experience and/or Indian culture. 

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Conveying Disability Through Verse

national-poetry-monthEarlier this month in honor of National Poetry Month, Geri wrote a post about novels in verse with some great recommendations for stories that are told entirely through poetry. Her post gave me some books to add to my to-be-read list, and as someone with an interest in books that include characters with disabilities, it also inspired me to think about novels in verse that center around characters with disabilities. Here are some great options for verse novels that convey the experience of disability.

Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham – Told through a combination of free verse, newspaper stories and correspondence, this novel follows Jane as she recovers from a shark attack that ended with her having her arm amputated. She must relearn how to do day-to-day tasks and become as independent as she was before the attack. Moreover, as an artist, she must decide whether she can still make art in the wake of this experience. Readers who enjoy this book can follow her life further in the follow-up novel, Formerly Shark Girl, which is also told in verse.

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Happy Independence Day! (In India)

india-flagAugust 15 is Independence Day, a national holiday in India. It celebrates the day in 1947 when India gained its independence from British rule. (Pakistan was partitioned on that same day.) India is an enormous country, second only to China in population, and its culture is more than four thousand years old. It has inspired artists throughout history. It is no wonder that fiction set in India or with Indian protagonists is popular and plentiful.

While pulling together this list, I was surprised by how many titles immediately came to mind. The slightest amount of research provided a dozen more. If you are curious about India, and would like to explore it through fiction, there are plenty of options for you.

a-beautiful-lie-masters-coverA Beautiful Lie by Irfan Master is an appropriate title to begin with since it focuses on August 15, 1947. Bilal’s father is dying, and Bilal is determined not to let him know about the upcoming partition, feeling that it will break his heart and hasten his death. Bilal enlists the aid of his closest friends and they devise elaborate schemes to keep people from his father’s bedside. Of course this backfires as the lie grows. Seeing these events through the eyes of a young teen help readers who do not know about this part of history. We learn alongside the main character.

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